Homepage Image Archives

July 02, 2018

Image Credit: P. Marenfeld & NOAO/AURA/NSF

WIYN-win for Kitt Peak
NSF & NASA team up to explore exoplanets

Which stars harbor what kind of planets? The NEID spectrograph, destined for Kitt Peak, will soon study planets discovered by the NASA missions Kepler and TESS. Designed for extreme radial velocity precision and funded by NASA, NEID will arrive at the WIYN telescope later this year. TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, was launched in April and will become fully operational this month.

Read more in this article from the Planetary Society

February 15, 2018

New Chapter Begins for Kitt Peak’s 4-m Mayall

P. Marenfeld & NOAO/AURA/NSF

Its 45-year-long assignment as an “all-purpose research tool” completed, the Mayall now embarks on a new mission: creating the largest 3D map of the cosmos. The map will help chart out the role of dark energy in the expansion history of the Universe. Over the next 15 months, the telescope will prepare for the installation of the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument, a massively parallel optical spectrometer capable of measuring the spectra of 5000 astronomical objects simultaneously.

Read more in NOAO Press Release 18-02.

November 10, 2017

8th International Earth & Sky Photo Contest

Photo credit: Yuri Zvezdny

A stunning collection of images showcased in the 8th International Earth & Sky Photo Contest highlights the beauty of the night sky and the battle with light pollution.

July 17, 2017

Blowing the Cover of a Hidden Black Hole

Image Credits: Stefan Binnewies and Josef Pöpsel of Capella Observatory (background image); Stephanie Juneau of NOAO and CEA-Saclay (inset).

A close look at the center of a nearby galaxy has revealed a surprising connection between the galaxy and the supermassive black hole at its center.

March 14, 2017

Protecting Dark Skies for Astronomy and Life

NOAO, in partnership with other concerned organizations, convened a workshop at the AAS meeting to showcase successful strategies for reducing light pollution.

November 29, 2016

DECam Legacy Survey Announces Third Data Release

The DECam Legacy Survey (DECaLS) has released reduced images and source catalogs covering between 4000 and 8000 square degrees of sky in three wavelength bands. Dive into survey images and explore the Universe with the survey’s Imagine Sky Viewer. DECaLS, which is being carried out on the CTIO Blanco telescope, is one of three public surveys that will jointly image 14,000 square degrees of sky to provide targets for the upcoming Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument cosmology project at the Kitt Peak Mayall telescope.

Read more in the NOAO Currents article.

August 23, 2016

Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument Enters Construction Phase

Image Credit: R. Lafever, J. Moustakas/DESI Collaboration, P. Marenfeld/NOAO/AURA/NSF & E. Acosta/LSST/AURA/NSF

The 3-D spectroscopic sky-mapping project, DESI (Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument), has received formal approval from the US Department of Energy to begin construction. Installation at the Kitt Peak Mayall telescope will begin in 2017. Designed to measure the role of dark energy in the expansion history of the Universe, DESI will measure the redshifts of more than 30 million galaxies and quasars and create a map of the Universe out to a distance of 10 billion light years.

Read more in the LBL Press Release.

July 13, 2016

Young Mammoth Cluster of Galaxies Sighted in the Early Universe

Image Credit: Dr. Rui Xue, Purdue University

Astronomers have uncovered evidence for a vast collection of young galaxies 12 billion light years away. The newly discovered “proto-cluster” of galaxies, observed when the universe was only 1.7 billion years old (12% of its present age), is one of the most massive structures known at that distance. The discovery was made using telescopes at KPNO and Keck Observatory. NOAO Astronomer Arjun Dey is the lead author of the study.

Read more in NOAO Press Release 16-01.

March 03, 2016

NGC 891

NGC 891

Image Credit: Sheri Loftin

In October of 2013, Sheri Loftin pointed one of the Kitt Peak Visitor Center telescopes towards NGC 891. Sheri used the RGB and luminescence filters on the SBIG STL-6303 camera for about a five minute exposure on each filter, with 1x1 binning on the luminescence and 2x2 on the RGB. This spiral galaxy spans about 100 thousand light years and is in the constellation Andromeda which is about 30 million light years away. It is seen almost exactly edge on from our perspective.

April 2015

Jupiter's Moons


Image Credit: Allison McGraw

This image of Jupiter was taken on January 23, 2015 by one of the Kitt Peak Visitor Center Program Specialists, Allison McGraw. Allison used the webcam to capture moments of a triple transit of some of Juipter's moons.

February 2015

Comet Lovejoy from Kitt Peak

Comet LoveJoy

Image Credit: Dean Salman

This image of Comet Lovejoy (C2014 Q2) was taken at the Kitt Peak National Observatory Visitor Center using a Takahashi FSQ 106mm refractor telescope while guiding with the RCOS 20-inch telescope. A Canon 60Da DSLR was used for 180 seconds at an ISO setting of 800. The image was processed with Adobe Photoshop CC 2014 edition to bring out the fainter areas seen in the tail.

April 2014

Sunset Alignment of Kitt Peak


Image Credit: Dean Ketelsen

This image was taken in mid December 2013 from the Mount Lemmon Highway by Dean Ketelsen. Dean and a group of amateur astronomers make it an annual event to trek up the highway to observe the sunset alignment of Kitt Peak National Observatory. Vist Dean's blog at http://www.theketelsens.blogspot.com to read more on this spectacular image and event.

September 2013

Milky Way Over Kitt Peak


Image Credit: Dean Ketelsen

This image was taken on the night of August 11/12. Dean Ketelsen and his wife went up a night early to see some Perseid meteors before the shower peak the next night (taking advantage of clear skies when you can during monsoon season is a must!). This shot was taken from the public parking lot with a Nikon 16mm Fisheye lens at F/2.8 on a Canon XSi camera. The shot was taken using a Polarie tracking mount running at half speed to split the trailing between the stars and trees and domes. The crescent moon was just above the horizon lighting up the 2.1 meter dome at left and the WIYN 0.9 meter telescope at right. The center of the Milky Way galaxy is centered between the constellations of Sagittarius just left, and Scorpius to the right. Vist Dean's blog at http://www.theketelsens.blogspot.com

July, 2013

A Windy, Starry Night


Image Credit: Dean Ketelsen

Over the last couple of observing seasons Dean Ketelsen has been working on a time lapse of the great globular cluster Omega Centauri rising over the 2.1 meter telescope on Kitt Peak. The result is shown here. These images were taken with an 85mm fast Nikon lens during a bright moon phase, where an F/1.8 lens speed made 15 second exposures possible (taken every 20 seconds). As a bonus, besides the cluster, which clears our southern horizon by only about 10 degrees, the bright galaxy Centaurus A (NGC 5128) is visible a few degrees above it. In addition, another sizable galaxy to the west, NGC 4945, can be seen as well. These objects are pointed out in the annotated picture.

May 7, 2013

Miss Tohono O'odham 2013


Image Credit: John Glaspey

Miss Tohono O'odham 2013 and her court visited the NOAO booth at the 75th Annual Tohono O'odham rodeo & Fair, February 1-3. Show in the picture: (left to right) Katy Garmany, Lori Allen, 1st Attendant Jaylene Wood, 2nd Attendant Raven Johnson, and Miss Tohono O'odham Nation Hon'mana Sekteoma. Jaylene Wood sang an O'odham traditional song describing an eagle soaring over Kitt Peak. See an article about the Fair in the March NOAO Newsletter.

February 13, 2012

High-resolution Imaging at the McMath-Pierce East


High-resolution images have been taken at the National Solar Observatory McMath-Pierce East Auxiliary telescope using the new facility pco2000 2048 x 2048 CCD camera. The system has the capability of roughly 20 full frames per second, or a faster cadence with smaller frames. The camera and reimaging bench has been used for rapid imaging during the partial eclipse of May 20, 2012, and for imaging polarimetry during the Venus transit of June 6, 2012; the science data for both events is currently being analyzed.

The system is available for imaging of solar structures and has captured some solar data during good seeing. A set of images was taken during the morning of August 27, 2012, and reconstructed using the well known MOMFBD code. About 20 sub-images of 1500 x 1500 pixels with 2 milli-second exposure times and a broadband filter at 450 nm were used to reconstruct the image shown above, which reaches a resolution of about 0.2 arcseconds, matching the pixel spatial size on the imaging bench. We are investigating reimaging to use smaller pixel scales.

The small sunspots associated with NOAA active region 1554 can be seen in the image, with small penumbral filaments and umbral dots. In the rest of the image a variety of solar granulation is seen, with regions of distorted granulation visible near the sunspots marking the likely location of other magnetic fields. Some residual image blurring and distortion can be seen in parts of the 250 x 250 arsecond field of view. The system is available for imaging and imaging polarimetric experiments; contact Matt Penn (mpenn_at_noao.edu) for details.

October 12, 2012


Visitor Center Nightly Observing Program

This image was taken by Visitor Center employee Dean Ketelsen during the March 10 Nightly Observing Program on Kitt Peak. The 50 second long exposure shows Jupiter and Venus in conjunction in the conical glow of the Zodiacal Light. Orion and the Winter Milky Way are visible with Canopus between the two telescopes at left. This shot was taken with a Canon XSi and Nikon 8mm F/2.8 fisheye lens.

July 17, 2012

Solar Eclipse over Kitt Peak

Solar Eclipse Over Kitt Peak!

Scott Gottilla of the MMT Observatory on Mt. Hopkins in southern Arizona had a spectacular view of the solar eclipse as it set behind Kitt Peak National Observatory on Sunday, May 20, 2012.

May 10, 2012

Dr. K. Michael Merrill

Remembering Dr. K. Michael Merrill

At a time when the Observatory is already under a lot of stress and uncertainty, we have  lost one of our sages with his quiet wisdom. Many of us worked with Mike for several years, and appreciated his gentle guidance and unobtrusive style, yet he was always available to listen and help. His creative way of thinking and a softly tactful presentation style often led others to see and accept solutions that would never have been considered or noticed otherwise. Mike was a highly respected colleague, and a good friend, with a warmth of character that made you smile inside just to think of him. His calm demeanor and sharp sense of humor kept tense situations relaxed and people found themselves at ease with him. He was much like a life coach to many people within NOAO and always demonstrated the highest ethical and moral fiber. Whether it was work or everyday issues, he would listen carefully and respond sincerely, but would often add that little touch of humor that helped the day along. 

It is hard to list all of the facets of NOAO which have benefited from Mikes’s expertise. He was a great reservoir of knowledge, experience, and wisdom about observatory operations. He was a quiet man, but happy to share his thoughts when approached.  He often taught by example that an instrument is not delivered until it is producing published science. After NOAO brought its first multi-detector IR imager, SQIID, to the telescope, as the instrument scientist, Mike saw its users choking on a glut of raw data. He broke this bottleneck by producing easy-to-use, well documented software reduction tools derived from his own profound understanding of the interactions between instrument, telescope, and sky. The first instrument to use cryocoolers that are now in near-universal use, SQIID became an instrument of great scientific productivity. As a scientist, Mike was generous about honest error while ethically firm about disseminating, not suppressing, discordant results. 

There may be dark matter and dark energy, but he was one of the bright sources here and the loss of his warmth will be ever felt.

April 2, 2012

Kitt Peak

The Cone Nebula

The Cone Nebula is part of the much larger Christmas Tree Cluster, NGC2264, in the constellation Monoceros, The Unicorn. It is an emission nebula, a region of hygrogen gas (the red color) and dust, where active star formation is occurring. The Cone suggests the appearance of a christmas tree decoration located at the top of the tree-shaped cluster. With an approximate diameter of 20 light years the Cone is located at a distance of about 3000 light years from Earth. This image was taken at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona on January 18, 2012 using an SBIG STL-6303E ccd camera mounted on the Kitt Peak Visitor Center's 20-inch, f/8.1, RCOS Ritchey-Chretien telescope on a Paramount ME equatorial mount. A total of 24 exposures, 300 seconds each, were taken through four separate Astrodon filters (H-alpha, R, G, and B), binned at 2x2 resolution. Camera control/initial image acquisition/processing with Maxim DL5 Pro, and final image processing using CCD Stack and Adobe Photoshop CS2 software.

February 15, 2012

Kitt Peak

The Great Andromeda Galaxy

M31, The Great Andromeda Galaxy shown with its smaller companion galaxies M32 and M110, is our nearest neighbor galaxy at approximately 2.5 million light years. These objects were captured through the Visitor Center's Takahashi FSQ-106 refractor telescope and a SBIG ST-8300C One-Shot color CCD camera. The image is the median combination of 12, five minute exposures.

January 23, 2012

Kitt Peak

The Pleiades and Hyades clusters above Kitt Peak

Evening view of Kitt Peak National Observatory as seem from the picnic area located approximately two miles below the summit, on Halloween, Monday, October 31. No sppks or goblins were sighted, but the Pleiades and Hyades star clusters appear over the 25 meter dish of the Very Large Baseline Array (VLBA) radio telescope antenna. Exposure time for this photograph was 30 seconds with a 35 mm lens on a Canon XSi camera.

November 4, 2011

Aden Meinel

First Director of Kitt Peak National Observatory Passed Away

Astronomy and Optical Science lost a great pioneer and innovator when Dr. Aden Meinel passed away this past week. Dr. Meinel led the development, and became the first Director, of the Kitt Peak National Observatory. He then went on to become Director of the Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona, where he also founded the Optical Sciences program.

Dr. Meinel's vision for the National Observatory still resounds today as Kitt Peak remains a vibrant research facility for all US astronomers.

NOAO Press Release 11-05: Aden Meinel, First Director of Kitt Peak National Observatory, Passed Away

September 13, 2011

WIYN 0.9meter

Beauty of the Universe Revealed by the WIYN 0.9m Telescope

NGC3628, an edge-on spiral about 35 million light years distant, the Crescent nebula (NGC6888, a shell of gas excited by HD192163, a Wolf-Rayet star) and M82, a peculiar galaxy at a distance of about 12 million light years.

These images were taken through B, V, and hydrogen alpha filters at the WIYN 0.9m in April 2011 as part of a special Visitor Center AOP program. A few nights on the 0.9m unexpectedly became available, and Glen & Joan Saurdiff responded to this opportunity to acquire images with a research telescope using the S2KB camera. The image processing was done by Flynn Haase of the Visitor Center, telescope operation by Steve Peterson and Katy Garmany.

May 4, 2011

Mayall Construction and Dave Crawford

Construction of the Mayall 4-meter telescope David Crawford

On March 2 2011, former NOAO Astronomer David Crawford celebrates his 80th birthday. In 1963 Dave became the project director for the KPNO 158-inch telescope project. In 1967 Dave took on the same job for the CTIO 158-inch. Both of these telescopes, with their excellent wide fields of view, have played major roles in both astronomical research (e.g. studies of Dark Matter and Dark Energy) and in the development and training of generations of astronomers. A co-founder of the International Dark-Sky Association, Dave has also played a major role in preserving the quality of the night-sky world-wide. Thank you Dave, and from all of us at Kitt Peak National Observatory, here's wishing you a very happy birthday!

February 28, 2011

Sky Brightness Measurements

Kitt Peak Night Sky is Still Dark

September 30, 2010

Celebrating 50 Years

Information on the 50th anniversary of Kitt Peak

December 1, 2009

Midday on Kitt Peak
by astronomer William K. Hartmann, May 2009

Astronomy Artists Exhibit Artwork in Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of our National Astronomy Observatory and the 50th Anniversary of The University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.

Members of the International Association of Astronomical Artists (IAAA) exihibited their work on Friday, October 23, 2009, in the Kuiper Space Sciences Building Atrium. The “Visions of the Cosmos” exhibit celebrates the 50th anniversaries of both the National Astronomy Observatory (1958-2008) and The University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (1960-2010). Much of the art displayed was very new. IAAA artists spent several days at Kitt Peak National Observatory in October, creating new works to celebrate the national observatory’s anniversary.

For information about the International Association of Astronomical Artists, visit: http://iaaa.org.

For information about Kitt Peak National Observatory, the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, and the National Solar Observatory, visit: http://www.noao.edu/kpno, http://www.noao.edu and http://www.nso.edu.

For information about the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, visit: http://www.lpl.arizona.edu.


October 23, 2009

Midday on Kitt Peak
by astronomer William K. Hartmann, May 2009

Professional space artists will be on Kitt Peak from October 18-23 to create artwork in celebration of the 50th anniversary of our national observatory. They intend to generate dozens of new works related to astronomy and the observatory. Exploring the territory where science and art overlap, a firm foundation of knowledge and research is the basis for each painting. They communicate a binding dream of adventure and exploration. The artists welcome interaction with visitors to the observatory.

October 9, 2009

Yale/WIYN Survey

Opportunity to participate in the Yale/WIYN Survey

August 28, 2009

Kitt Peak

Composite image showing a view of Kitt Peak looking north from near the location of the 0.9m dome. Left: a re-discovered image from Dr. Aden Meinel taken during his first visit to the summit while scouting potential sites for the National Observatory. Right: image from Dr. John Glaspey from April 2009, shows the changes that have taken place in the last 50 years.

July 13, 2009

Medusa Nebula  
Image credit: T.A. Rector/University of Alaska Anchorage and NOAO/AURA/NSF (for details see Conditions of Use)

The Medusa nebula, known scientifically as Abell 21, is an old planetary nebula some 1,500 light-years away in the constellation Gemini. It is estimated to be over 4 light-years across. This image was taken on Oct 24th, 2008 at the Mayall telescope with the mosaic camera, with [OIII] (assigned a blue color) and H-alpha (orange) filters.

This image was released during the 100 Hours of Astronomy webcast, "Around the World in 80 Telescopes" held from April 3-4, 2009, during the International Year of Astronomy 2009. View the recorded event from KPNO. See also this image of NGC 6520 from CTIO, which was also released during the webcast.

May 27, 2009

AURA Awardees  

On April 1, Buell Jannuzi, Director of Kitt Peak National Observatory and David Silva, Director of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory held the annual State of KPNO and NOAO for mountain staff, who gathered at the Visitors Center. A Human Resources representative was on hand to help Buell and Dave acknowledge several people with the AURA (Length of) Service awards.

Two of our Visitors Center employees were recognized; John Zum Brunnen received his 5-Year Award and Sharmain Garcia received her 10-Year Award. Within the Facilities group, Miguel Grijalva received his 25-Year Award, Jose Montes received his 30-Year Award, and Hector Rios and Tilferd Cachora both received their 35-Year Awards. Skip Andree, in the mountain support group, received his 40-Year Award. Congratulations to all!

April 17, 2009

  Kitt Peak 50th

Celebrating 50 years!
Kitt Peak National Observatory

Kitt Peak was selected in 1958 as the site for a national observatory from a survey that included more than 150 mountain ranges across the United States. Located on lands of the Tohono O’odham Nation in the Sonoran Desert southwest of Tucson, Arizona, Kitt Peak today is home to the world’s largest collection of optical telescopes under desert skies that continue to be some of the finest in the world for astronomical observations.

We will be hosting a series of events in Tucson and on Kitt Peak throughout the anniversary, including open houses, special speakers and a special pullout section in the Arizona Daily Star. And there is more to come, so please be sure to check back with us often!
For more information visit the 50th anniversary website.

October 8, 2008

 M86-NGC4438 complex

Big Galaxy Collisions Can Stunt Star Formation

A deep new image of the Virgo cluster has revealed monumental tendrils of ionized hydrogen gas 400,000 light-years long connecting the elliptical galaxy M86 and the disturbed spiral galaxy NGC 4438. Taken with the wide-field Mosaic imager on the National Science Foundation’s Mayall 4-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory, this Hydrogen-alpha image and related spectroscopic measurements of the filament provide striking evidence of a previously unsuspected high-speed collision between the two galaxies, creating enough heat to slow down and even stop star formation in the galaxy. For more, see NOAO Press Release PR-0807.

August 28, 2008

 QUOTA Image

QUOTA image of the open star cluster NGC 6791

WIYN One Degree Imager (ODI)
Prototype Camera

The Quad-OTA CCD camera, QUOTA, has just completed an engineering run at the WIYN telescope. An OTA is a Orthogonal Transfer CCD Array and are the new generation of orthogonal transfer CCDs (OTCCD) being developed at the WIYN observatory. OTCCDs are special purpose CCDs that, when used with the NOAO developed MONSOON controller, allow the collected charge to be moved within the array during integration. Fast imaging of one or more bright guide stars in certain parts of the array allow atmospheric and other motion compensation to be made in the form of low order tip-tilt corrections. WIYN has operated the original prototype OTCCD camera, OPTIC, for over 4 years.
Full article here.

August 4, 2008

 Pierre Martin, WIYN Director

New Director of the WIYN Observatory

Astronomer Pierre Martin, director of science operations at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT), has been selected as the new director of the WIYN Observatory, which operates 3.5-meter and 0.9-meter telescopes on Kitt Peak.

Starting September 22, Martin succeeds George Jacoby, who will return to the scientific staff of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO). For more, see WIYN Press Release.

April 1, 2008

 Robert Wilson

Night Vision Atop Kitt Peak

Image Credit: James Gregg/Arizona Daily Star

Senior Program Coordinator Robert T. Wilson views Saturn through a telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory on April 7. Kitt Peak National Observatory nears its 50th year and remains a vital presence in the astronomy community. Watch our website for information on upcoming events to help us celebrate!